Starkiller, born Galen Marek and also known as The Apprentice, is the fictional protagonist of the Star Wars: The Force Unleashed video games and literature, part of the Star Wars expanded (Legends) universe.
|Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and Soulcalibur IV character|
|First appearance||Soulcalibur IV (2008)|
|Last appearance||Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars (2011)|
|Created by||Haden Blackman|
|Full name||Galen Marek|
The son of a fugitive Jedi, Marek is kidnapped, raised, and apprenticed by Darth Vader after the death of his father at Vader's hands. Given the Sith name "Starkiller" for his unmatched potency with the Force, Marek is used for destructive purposes. His annihilative nature gains him the description of a "Force wrecking ball". The character's name is taken from Luke Skywalker's original name, "Luke Starkiller". The character's likeness and voice were provided by Samuel Witwer, who would later voice Darth Maul in the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels and in the film Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Starkiller also appears as a crossover character, along with Darth Vader and Yoda, in the fighting video game Soulcalibur IV, which was released before The Force Unleashed and included the character as a contemporary tie-in.
Concept and creation
George Lucas motivated the team working on Star Wars: The Force Unleashed to make a brand-new character. Before deciding on Starkiller's character, other ideas for the main character included a Han Solo-like smuggler, a superheroic Rebel Wookiee, "the last Skywalker" and a gadget-wielding mercenary. The developers used feedback from focus test respondents and executives at LucasArts in order to make Starkiller. The developers consciously decided not to give him a name in the game, but as the novel's author Sean Williams said he needed a name, "Galen Marek" was given in the novel.
Starkiller was designed as Luke Skywalker's photo-negative, and is named after "Annikin Starkiller" (Luke or Anakin Skywalker's original name in the early Star Wars scripts). The developers tried to avoid making Starkiller too rigidly defined while keeping the character developed. The developers also wanted to avoid making Starkiller seem irredeemably evil, and used elements of his backstory and his relationships with other characters to balance it, while trying not to explain too much of his backstory. In order to avoid the character being over emotional, they tried to let short pieces of dialogue and looks carry scenes so that the player could interpret how Starkiller felt. They attempted to make Starkiller feel like he would belong in the classic Star Wars trilogy by making his actions faster and more intense. During an interview to Haden Blackman by The Guardian, he claimed that most of the testing players wanted the character to be ultimately redeemed by the end of the game.
Starkiller was voiced by and given the likeness of Samuel Witwer. According to Blackman, the staff were very hard on Witwer when casting him, but claimed he was far above the other candidates and that "he was already inhabiting the mind of this character". Starkiller's expressions are based on Witwer's, which Blackman described as "a new approach for LucasArts", noting that it "affected the way we handled casting for The Force Unleashed" and comparing it to how people see Bill Nighy as Davy Jones in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Blackman noted that Witwer brought new ideas and a sense of humanity to Starkiller. Sam Witwer has said that Starkiller would be a character he wouldn't mind revisiting.
During the concept stages of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, the developers considered replacing the character with either a new Force wielder or a previously named Star Wars character; however, they decided to keep Starkiller as the player character as they were fond of and attached to him. Also, the development team felt that there was more story that he could supply, and that a franchise could be built around him. Blackman commented that after deciding how to have Starkiller return, he felt "it all made sense and fell into place". Developers tried to make The Force Unleashed more personal to Starkiller, with the game focusing on Starkiller's search for the truth of his identity.
Sam Witwer, IGN
Witwer compared him as being "two parts Han Solo, one part Darth Maul, one part Indiana Jones [...] and then one essential part Luke Skywalker", noting that in the character's development "behind it all, there had to be this wide-eyed kid who was trying to figure out what the hell to do". According to Witwer, Starkiller's characteristics and personality depended on who he was talking to and what circumstances he is in. Witwer called him "a really interesting guy, speaking of layered characters". Although acting as a villain in the beginning of the first game, Blackman has commented how Starkiller is "really just this damaged kid."
Haden Blackman noted that in the first Starkiller was a hunter, while in the second Starkiller is more a fugitive. Matt Filbrandt, one of the producers of The Force Unleashed II, said that the Starkiller in the second game is trying to find out "who he is" and "what it means to be human".
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
In the Star Wars: The Force Unleashed video game, Darth Vader dispatches Starkiller to kill the Jedi who survived the Great Jedi Purge. Starkiller is initially kept in secret. But after Starkiller is discovered by Emperor Palpatine, Vader sends Starkiller to find the Galactic Empire's enemies and unite them. Vader later betrays Starkiller and attempts to kill those he united, but Starkiller sacrifices himself for the Rebel Alliance and becomes a martyr for the rebels. During the game, he falls in love with Captain Juno Eclipse, an ex-Imperial Shuttle Pilot and his own ship's pilot. If Starkiller chooses to kill Vader rather than the Emperor at the end of the game, Starkiller becomes a minion of the Emperor and is put into a suit similar to Vader's. Starkiller reappears in this suit in the game's Ultimate Sith Edition, which continues the dark-side path as a "what if" story. However, the light-side ending is the canon ending, and is used in the novel adaption and sequels.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II
In the Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II video game and comic, as well as the novel, Starkiller is cloned by Darth Vader. Starkiller's clone is haunted by visions of the original Starkiller's life. After escaping Kamino, Starkiller goes on a quest to find out who he is and to find Juno Eclipse who has been kidnapped by Vader. At the end of the game, if the player chooses the light-side ending, Starkiller spares Vader, capturing him, and rescues Juno. But in the dark side ending, Starkiller is stabbed just before he can kill Vader by the Dark Apprentice (another successful clone) trained by Vader. Starkiller's dark side clone reappeared in downloadable content for the video game, which takes place on Endor. The light side ending is also used in the novel adaptation, though the dark side ending is used as a vision Starkiller sees on Juno's ship, the Salvation.
Legacy and third game cancellation
After the Unleashed franchise was discontinued following Disney's decision to reboot the Star Wars canon in favor of producing a sequel trilogy, Sam Witwer, Marek's voice actor, revealed that Dave Filoni, the creator of the Star Wars Rebels animated series, considered bringing Marek back into the new canon and having him appear in that series as a member of the Sith Inquisitorius, but ultimately decided against it because he could not find a way to do so without compromising either the new canon's quality or the character's unique distinctions.
Witwer remained involved with the Star Wars franchise, voicing Darth Maul in the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels and the film Solo: A Star Wars Story. He also has voiced Palpatine and other minor characters.
Sean Williams' novelization was released in the United States on 19 August 2008. It spent one week as #1 on both Publishers Weekly's and The New York Times' hardcover fiction bestsellers lists, slipping to #7 and #9, respectively, the following week. It also reached #15 on USA Today's bestsellers list.
Williams took on the writing project in part because of the "catchy description" of The Force Unleashed being "Episode 3.5" of the Star Wars saga. The novel focuses on the dark side of the Force and its practitioners; Williams found it "interesting" to portray the Jedi as "bad guys." The author most enjoyed developing the character of Juno Eclipse, exploring the "feminine" side of The Force Unleashed in a way the video game does not. Williams also said that while the game allows the player to "do" Starkiller's actions, the novel allows readers to experience Starkiller's thoughts about those actions, adding another dimension to the story.
Dark Horse's The Force Unleashed graphic novel was published 18 August 2008. Newsarama called the graphic novel a "solid story" that matches the video game source material in both structure and plot. IGN gave the graphic novel a score of 6.9/10 (6.4/10 for art, 7.5/10 for the writing), praising the overall story but faulting inconsistency in the art and questioning whether the comic medium was the best way to convey the story.
At Toy Fair 2007, Hasbro showed seven figures from their action figure line based on the game. Lego released a model of the main character's ship, the Rogue Shadow.
Starkiller debuted in Soulcalibur IV as a fighter, alongside Darth Vader and Yoda. In Soulcalibur IV he is known as "The Apprentice". After Vader sends him to investigate a dimensional rift that seems to be growing, he passes through to the Soulcalibur universe. The Apprentice defeats Algol and returns to Vader without either the Soul Edge or the Soul Calibur, due to perceiving them as worthless. Vader Force Chokes the Apprentice for disobeying him, causing the Apprentice to draw his lightsaber and prepare to fight Vader. Starkiller also appears in Star Wars: Visions of the Blade, an Infinities comic focusing on the Soulcalibur and Star Wars crossover.
Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars
Starkiller appears under the name "Vader's Apprentice", as an unlockable character in Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars. He is unlocked by finding all the mini-kits in the "Defenders of Peace" level.
Dave Filoni, supervising director of the Disney-canonical animated series Star Wars Rebels, considered reintroducing the character with a modified backstory and in the role of an "Inquisitor", with Sam Witwer reprising the role, but these plans ultimately went unused.
Promotion and reception
Hasbro has made multiple action figures of Starkiller, along with the rest of the characters in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. A Lego version of Starkiller was released as one of the three figures in the Rogue Shadow Lego set.
UGO Networks chose the character as the 50th top Star Wars Expanded Universe character. IGN's Jesse Schedeen called Starkiller's appearance in Soulcalibur IV the second best bonus character in the series, complementing his inclusion from a story standpoint as "[Soulcalibur IV] is about the dichotomy between good and evil, corruption and redemption, [...] Starkiller is a Dark Jedi who finds himself at a crossroads. He can either follow his master and take control of the galaxy, or break away and seek out his own destiny", with Schedeen later including Starkiller in a list of characters that would make up their idea of the ultimate fighting game. Chris Buffa also put the character as the 24th top gaming hunk, saying that "nothing compares to a bad boy". Jesse Schedeen called Starkiller one of the most promising player characters to be released during fall 2008. After the release of The Force Unleashed, Robert Workman, also from GameDaily, put the character as one of his favorite Star Wars video game characters. Buffa chose Starkiller as one of the top double-crossing characters. Jesse Schedeen listed Starkiller as one of the best video game entertainers of 2008, commenting that "Starkiller unleashed the Force in ways the movies never showed us".
UGO Networks listed Sam Witwer's performance as Starkiller as one of their top 11 celebrity voice actors in video games. Chris Buffa put Starkiller as the 19th top anti-hero, commenting that "the thought of cutting through good guys as a Sith filled us with murderous joy", also praising his eventual turn to good. Jesse Schedeen also thought that it would be best if the character was not revisited in the upcoming live-action TV series after the first The Force Unleashed as "his story arc was nice and complete". Starkiller was voted the top 10th Star Wars character by IGN's readers. IGN later claimed Starkiller as the 34th top Star Wars character. GameSpot listed Starkiller, as "The Apprentice", in a vote for the all-time greatest video game character. Starkiller was eliminated in the first round after being put against Niko Bellic, a character from Grand Theft Auto IV, with Starkiller garnering 44.9% of the votes. Starkiller was also voted as the 17th top video game character by Game Informer's readers. Game Informer listed him sixth on their list of the "Top 10 Dorks", saying "The words "jedi" and "dork" rarely go together, but Starkiller is the Chosen One to unite them".
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